Honourable Surrender in Early Modern European History, 1500–1789
The late Middle Ages witnessed the European invention of honorable surrender, which promised survival to elite warriors who yielded, while it provided ransoms to their captors. During the early modern era this took on more general character: on the one hand, honorable surrender encompassed the fate of common soldiers as well as the elite, and, on the other hand, the state supplanted the individual as the taker and custodian of prisoners. In comparison with the period after 1650, that from 1500 to the mid-seventeenth century witnessed more irregular and harsh treatment of those who surrendered. After 1650, increased state control over armies allowed greater regularity and moderation, as celebrated by the Enlightenment. Adversaries even exchanged prisoners in a reasonable and often rapid manner. The practices of ransom, parole, and exchange developed in the early modern period would have a long life in military law and practice.
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